Tag Archives: Detroit

Pujols, Fielder and the four-team effect

 

Prince Fielder moving to Detroit Tigers was supposed to make the line-up more explosive than last season – but has it?

McGILLIGAN: Losing perhaps one of the greatest hitters of all time should have spelled disaster for the St. Louis Cardinals offense. With Albert Pujols career averages of .325, 42 homeruns and 125 RBI, the run totals for the Cardinals should have dipped.

The same could be said for the Milwaukee Brewers who lost the power bat of Prince Fielder and his perennial .284, 37 homeruns and 106 RBI.

Instead, it’s the big spending teams who brought in Pujols and Fielder – the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Detroit Tigers, respectively – that are seeing big drops in offence.

In the three seasons preceding Pujols arrival, the Angels averaged 743 runs per year. This season, Los Angeles is on pace to score about 645, a projected drop of 98 runs compared to the previous three years.

The numbers are grim in Detroit as well. The Tigers mashed the ball from 2009-11, averaging 760 runs during that time span. With Fielder in 2012, the team is on pace to score about 699 runs, a potential drop of 60 runs.

Conversely, their former teams aren’t feeling the hurt offensively as many predicted. In fact, the St. Louis Cardinals are on pace to score 828 runs this season, a potential climb of 86 runs compared to the preceding three season with Pujols in the lineup.

The Brewers offense is on pace to dip in Fielder’s absence by about  47 runs,  but still projected to exceed the Tigers output.

In the Angels-Cardinals divide, the main difference (team wise) can be chalked up to its offense efficiency rating which we wrote about in this post about the Tampa Bay Rays (http://outofwritefield.com/2012/04/18/rays-sixth-in-runs-scored-last-two-seasons-it-cant-be-true-well-it-is/). The rating essentially is the percentage of a team’s hits that go for extra bases, which are more likely to produce runs by either driving others in or by getting into scoring position.

The Cardinals averaged an efficiency rating of 32.4 from 2009-11, but have increased that number to 33.4 this season in Pujols absence. A one per cent increase is significant in this stat given the divide between the lowest rated team this season and the highest is about 11 percentage points (Boston Red Sox – 40.7  and Houston Astros 29.6).

The Angels rating has plummeted with the addition of Pujols going from an average of 33 from 2009-11 to a dismal 29.6 this season, tied for last in MLB with the aforementioned Astros.

As for the other two teams, Milwaukee has the second highest rating in MLB in 2012 at 38.3 which hasn’t offset Fielder’s production, but has minimized his loss. Detroit’s average has gained 0.8 of a percent, which doesn’t explain the predicted drop in run production until you dig a bit further. The Tigers are on pace to have its lowest total of hits since 2009. While the efficiency is roughly the same, the number of extra base hits is lower resulting in fewer runs scored.
With one-third of the season done, the Angels and Tigers still have a chance to turn things around, but the early trends are cause for concern.

NOTE: All stats current as 12 p.m. (EST) June 5, 2012.

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Jose Canseco: Baseball’s newest sage – and worst speller

Jose Canseco's Twitter account is equally as embarrassing as his book - and his spelling could use some serious fine tuning.

McGILLIGAN: Stand and fight for the truth.

Don’t let any person or group of people take advantage of you.

Fight the liars and hypocrites. Good and honest people suffer too much.

This sounds like the musings of a slightly unpopular high school student who just started a blog. They are not.

Those earnest ramblings come from the mind and thus twitter account of my childhood baseball hero: Jose Canseco.

Time, no baseball and no inner filter from thought to keyboard has produced one of the oddest and most strangely fascinating twitter accounts in recent memory.

He’s part terrible sage, educator, quiz master and well, who knows what else. What I do know is this isn’t the man I idolized growing up, but then again I was basing most of that on the cover of a Topps baseball sticker album and his 40-40 season of 1988.

In order to try and understand the hero of my youth, I decided to decipher some of his tweets from the past 24 hours. The spelling and punctuation are all Jose. (This experiment began at 7:50 ET, April 19, 2012)

19 hours ago – Class in session ,I complete you ,slap a hoe wait I mean hater

Analysis: It obviously isn’t an English class as his commas are in the wrong place. I like that he quickly corrected himself and asked his followers (almost 450,000, how scary is that) to hit a hater rather than a gardening tool.

19 hours ago – Three rusty rabbits ran rather fast

Analysis: Perhaps this is the poetry section of that class he was referring to.

19 hours ago – So if people who tell the truth go to jail that only means one thing. If you havnt been to jail or prison you’re a liar ,right.

Analysis: Grammar is still atrocious. This tweet was in response to a person (@eduardo1garcia) who referred to him as a snitch. The person called him this because Jose asked why our prisons and jails are overpopulated. Got to side with Jose on this one, his being a snitch on baseball’s steroid era has nothing to do with prison overcrowding. Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro are still free men. Well done @eduardo1garcia, you’ve made Jose look logical, not an easy task.

19 hours ago

@JoseCanseco: Come on somebody say something really mean and original

@thematthinrichs: Your balls are literally the size of the marbles they use in Hungry Hungry Hippos

@JoseCanseco: lol,that’s funny but they are not that big guess again

Analysis: Jose shows he doesn’t mind being the brunt of a good joke and has a sense of humour. Not bad for someone who seems totally unhinged. @thematthinrichs does not respond to Jose’s obvious attempt to steer the conversation towards his genitals

19 hours ago – If you shot a bullet and dropt a nickel which one would hit the ground first

Analysis: This is what I like to call Professor Jose, he’s dropping knowledge in the form of questions. My favourite response is the guy who asks if the gun is parallel to the ground and Jose says it is. He then goes on to say he’s shocked that no one got the answer. I have to agree with Jose, its an easy answer because if the gun is parallel to the ground then the nickel would hit the ground first as the bullet would travel quite a ways before losing momentum and falling to the ground. Wait, someone got it….

18 hours ago – Gary root got it ,the answer is at the same time big hug for Gary.

Analysis: Sorry, there will be no hug for Gary. His answer was completely incorrect and the fact Jose thinks its right and couldn’t believe no one got the answer before Gary is awesome.

(Note: Jose’s twitter photo is of him in a Red Sox uniform. Out of all the things on his twitter account, this is the oddest to me.)

On a side note, there’s a lot of racist remarks thrown out by Jose’s twitter followers.

6 hours ago – Yes I know brain of a soft shell turtle

Analysis: I have no idea, this isn’t in response to anything or anyone as far as I can tell.

4 hours ago – Alcoholics,murderes,rapist,drug addicts,child molesters.that makes up 33% of our population

Analysis: This fact is not attributed to anything and anyone. According to Jose’s logic that means every third person you see is capable of doing something unbelievably evil or has a severe drug and/or alcohol dependency. It must be terrifying to live in Jose’s neighbourhood. Apparently it’s filled with alcoholics, murderers (I’m assuming this is what he meant to write), rapists, drug addicts and child molesters. You know who doesn’t live in Jose’s neighbourhood? An elementary school grammar teacher.

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Timelessness and Jamie Moyer

Creeping closer to seniors discounts at local restaurants, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a game in the bigs, a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres. Cheers Jamie!

LIVINGSTONE: I’m beginning to look into my future a little bit more these days, especially when it comes to baseball. It coincides with life, maturity, professional desires, life, family, etc. It’s normal, I suppose, so it’s carried over into the ‘what-ifs’ of my sports passions. Will Ben Roethlisberger make it to another Super Bowl? Will The Flyers win a Stanley Cup in the next five years? Will the Leafs ever win one in my lifetime (or my hypothetical child…and their kids.)?

The question that popped into my head last night came on the heals of a new baseball record, now enshrined in the Hall of Fame: Will Jamie Moyer ever retire?

Moyer, at the young age of forty-nine, became the oldest pitcher in history to win a baseball game. Pitching now for the Colorado Rockies, after pitching for almost every team in baseball (that’s not true, but it seems like it, he’s only pitched for eight) he kept the San Diego Padres’ hitters at bay with his lightning-fast 79 mph fastball and his nasty cutter. The Rockies won 5-3.

Moyer, 49 years, 150 days old to be exact, takes the record held by Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was 49 years, 70 days old when he set the record.

Wait, the Brooklyn Dodgers? Yep, the record was set on Sept. 13, 1932 when a bottle of Coke was five cents and the Second World War was yet to happen.

It’s an incredible feat. To be able to pitch for 25 years, for eight clubs, play with Ryne Sandberg, Ken Griffey Jr., and Carlos Gonzalez (in three different decades mind you) amass 268 wins and over 2,400 Ks – it’s unreal. Moyer is the third oldest pitcher ever to play in a regular season game (behind Quinn and Satchel Paige who was, get this, 59(!!) when he played in 1965) and is tied for sixth on the oldest player, pitcher or position, to play (he’s tied with the likes of Julio Franco (2007) and Hughie Jennings (1918), among others).

It speaks a lot to not only the longevity of his ability to play – but to the fact he has been able to continue pitching, after 25 years and more than 4,000 innings, without his body, or love for the game, saying that’s enough.

Sure, he gets a paycheck, and a pretty decent one in the grand scheme of life, but at this point in his career, he just seems to want to keep playing the game he loves so dearly.

It’s beautiful.

 

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A look at the first week of baseball: Infante, D’backs and Ozzie Castro, er, Guillen

Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante is off to a good start - his manager, however, is struggling to remove his foot from his mouth.

LIVINGSTONE: It’s a week into the season for the boys of summer. It’s nice to get back into the routine of checking daily baseball stats, deciding the ole fantasy line-up for the day and catching whatever games I can on the tube – especially the late games. It’s my first full summer in Toronto and in addition to all things baseball from my years past, I now get to engage with the Fan590, the great crew of baseball nuts and the spot-on and absolutely moronic baseball fanatics – aka Jays fans – out there.

The anxiety and curiosity that comes with the start of the season is always at it’s worst. Everything is so up in the air. How will so-and-so perform? What pitchers are going to throw gems? Who is going to surprise and rip it up the first week and are they legit? Who is going to tank? When do we worry they may not get out of the funk?

And so on and so on.

So, in honour of the first week of the season, the biggest surprises and whatnots of the week.

1. The first-series sweeps of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

For the first time since 1966 (correct me if I’m wrong people) the two powerhouses of the last 20 years in the American League lost their opening series’ in not-so-classy fashion. Four blown saves (Boston had three, including two in one game; Rivera, surprisingly, blew a ninth inning lead to the Tampa Bay Rays). I know it’s early, but it’s surprising. Since then the Yanks have managed some wins against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, while the Sox lost two of three to the Blue Jays and sit at 1-4. No blown saves though, so that’s a positive.

That said – Boston has a nine-game homestand starting Friday. Rays (four), Rangers (two), Yankees (three). If they can’t pull it together at home against these three equals/better thans, it’s going to be a long, long season for Sox Nation.

2. Omar Infante

It’s early, but he’s tied for the league lead in dingers. I know, it’s only three, but still, it’s shocking. The guy hit seven total last season in 640 plate appearances (his 162-game average is nine). In seven seasons (2005-2011) Infante hit 35 home runs in about 2,000 at-bats (note: he hit 16 in 2004 for the Tigers). It’s very likely he won’t hit more than his 2004 total this year, his tenth, but the hot start has to be exciting for the Marlins, who rely on him to get on base and provide quality defense at second.

3. Ozzie Guillen

I’m not going to get into his love for Fidel Castro too much, nor the five-game suspension that followed – but holy lord. In the span of a week he told reporters he gets drunk at the hotel after every game and passes out, followed by bro-love for the longest standing dictator in the world in Castro. Well done Ozzie. Thing is, it’s not surprising – he has no filter.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

This team is potent. They’re deep on the bench and can field a solid one-thru-eight, loaded with solid hitters who can do damage if given the opportunity. Pitching? Yep, they have it. The addition of Trevor Cahill to the duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. The comeback against the Giants Saturday shows they can scrape back. Down six runs early, they chipped away and stole the win 7-6 from their division rivals – and biggest opponent for the division title.

5. Minnesota Twins

Six runs in four games – three of those games against the Baltimore Orioles. Enough said.

6. The week of blown saves

Sweet mercy, I don’t know what to think of all the blown saves, walk-off/extra inning wins in the first week. There were enough that it’s cause conversation among the three of us here at Out of Write Field. The AL East is particularly disturbing: Rivera (1), Jays Sergio Santos (2), Red Sox Aceves and Melancon (3) have had it rough in the first week. Watch for Matthew Strader’s piece on the closer issues going on across the majors – blown saves, injuries and everything going wrong in the ninth. As I write this Jonathan Broxton, Royals closer-of-the-day, just blew what feels like the 30th save opportunity in the first week of the season (I think it’s actually 17 at this point of the day with Broxton – but still…17!!? late addition note: Make it 18. Joe Nathan blew the game for the Rangers last night in the ninth to the Seattle Mariners)

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Weekend notes: Collmenter’s delivery and Johnson’s plate discipline

Diamondbacks' pitcher Josh Collmenter delivery is odd in comparison to the rest of the league - it certainly got one Write Fielders' attention.

LIVINGSTONE: After watching the Jays drop the series finale of the opening weekend series to the Cleveland Indians 4-3, The San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks game came on and after watching Josh Collmenter throw his first inning, I had to sit down and write about him.

In the many years I’ve watched baseball, there are a number of unorthodox pitchers that come to mind – Hideo Nomo with his near corkscrew pitch delivery, Giants Tim Lincecum with his rocket launchpad approach, Brad Ziegler and Peter Moylan’s submarine-style delivery, the list could go on.

But looking back over the years, I can’t think of anyone with a delivery like Collmenter. While his delivery isn’t as, well, below the belt as the submarine, it is less than normal. When he throws a pitch – either the fastball or change-up, both pitches he relies on heavily – his arm looks like that of a cricket bowler (ie: the guy who launches the cricket ball), a near-mechanical looking delivery. Coming out of his wind-up, his arm doesn’t sit outside his shoulder, but seemingly right in line with it. The over-the-top delivery is uncommon in baseball and certainly can be deceptive to hitters.

There is a certain amount of expectation surrounding Collmenter. Since his days pitching for the Homer High School Trojans, where The Homer, Michigan native put up eye-opening numbers. Collmenter won 18 games in the 2004 season, the third highest total in state history. He recorded a state-record 13 shutouts that season while striking out 223 batters and notching a 0.13 ERA. Collmenter finished his High School career with 49 wins, 23 shutouts, 546 strikeouts and a 0.99 ERA, all of which rank in the top six in state history.

His minor league stats weren’t nearly as lights out – he went 45-27 between 2007 and 2010 with one Trilple-A appearance in 2011 before being called up to the Diamondbacks – but they were enough to get him a spot in the starting rotation where he went 10-10 last season, striking out 100 in 154-plus innings, helping the D’Backs win the National League West division.

He’s a fun kid to watch pitch and with some work on refining his curveball into a quality breaking pitch to compliment his fastball, change-up and cutter, Collmenter will be a top-three starter during his career.

That all said, I want to fast-forward back to the Jays opening series, briefly, to spare our readers the saturation of Jays talk.

Despite being three games into the season, Jays second baseman – and number two hitter – Kelly Johnson is showing some incredible plate discipline. While he’s 5-for-14 with a home run, he’s got four walks, most of them long plate appearances, drawing it out to eight or nine pitch at-bats before taking his base. The biggest one was in the ninth today against the Indians, taking a walk on a 12 (I think) pitch at-bat with two out to load the bases for Jose Bautista. While Bautista flied out (to the moon) to end the game, it wasn’t a total loss.

Hitting in front of one of the most dangerous bats in the game requires you to get on base as much as possible. If the opening series is any indication (Johnson’s OBP is over .500) Bautista is going to have ample opportunity to put runs on the board – or get walked (he’s got four walks in three games), paving the way for Lind, Encarnacion and Lawrie to empty the bases.

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The Write Fielders unscientific guide to the 2012 MLB season

Matt Kemp for MVP? It's possible, and likely, says Write Fielder Andrew McGilligan.

McGILLIGAN: With the season about to start, what follows are my predictions for the 2012 MLB 2012.

I will either be proven a genius (the most unlikely of scenarios) or, like 99 per cent of others making predictions, just plain wrong.

So with that bit of inspirational writing here are my picks:

American League Division and Wild Card Winners

AL East – New York Yankees

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wildcard – Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox

RATIONALE: The Yankees always find a way to win and I have a hard time thinking this year will be different, however, I think it will be extremely tight in the East. I think all the moves made by the Angels might take a few games to come together, but when they do, its going to be fun to watch. There’s no team in the central that should be close to Detroit. The Rangers should get one wildcard spot, as for the other, it’s a tossup between the Sox and Rays, but I give it to the Sox because, well, I like the Sox (no one said this was going to be scientific).

National League Division and Wild Card Winners

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers

NL West – San Francisco Giants

NL Wildcards – Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins

RATIONALE: I think the Phillies know the clock is ticking and will be fighting tooth and nail with the Marlins for the East, but pitching gives the Phils the division. So many people like the Reds and Cardinals in the central, but even without Fielder I think the pitching and decent but weaker Brewers lineup can still get it done. In the West, its pitching once again for me as the Giants staff will be too good to have the Diamondbacks wrestle the crown away for a second year.

World Series

Detroit over San Francisco in six games

RATIONALE: I’m big on Detroit this year. A solid lineup with two of the most intimidating hitters around combined with a pitching staff led by Verlander should be enough for World Series crown in Motor City.

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVPMiguel Cabrera – With Fielder doing the job of Victor Martinez providing protection for arguably the best hitter in the game, I see another outstanding year on the horizon.

AL Cy YoungDavid Price – He’s developed other pitches to go with his great fastball and I think this is the year he puts it all together.

AL Rookie of the YearMatt Moore – I was tempted to go with Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes (honestly either one could have been my pick), but I’m going with the Rays rookie hurler Matt Moore to take the honour.

NL MVPMatt Kemp – Can’t see why he wouldn’t be just as great this year as last. New ownership makes it a more stable place to play, which can’t hurt.

NL Cy YoungRoy Halladay – I don’t ever like to bet against Roy Halladay, so I won’t. Chalk up another trophy for Doc.

NL Rookie of the YearYonder Alonso – I wanted to slot in Bryce Harper, but I decided to go out to the left coast and predict Padres rookie Yonder Alonso comes home with the award.

I also have some random predictions I hope come true this year:

– Ozzie Guillen conducts an entire press conference using nothing but Spanish curse words

– KFC tries all season to make Jon Lester and Josh Beckett their news spokesmen to no avail…..John Lackey offers to do it for bucket of chicken and is turned down

– After being thrown out of a game, Bobby Valentine dresses up as Matt Damon, sits next to Ben Affleck near Red Sox dugout and tries to coach using various hand signals being relayed to David Ortiz.

LIVINGSTONE: Predicting anything sports related is either going to make you look like a genius, a bandwagon jumper or a complete moron who was way off the mark.

I’d like to think I can be the genius, but it’s all a guessing game – so I’ll go with being the moron over the bandwagon jumper out of pure respect of taking a gamble rather than the safe bet.

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista propels the Jays into the post-season for the first time in nearly two decades - and finally, his well-deserved MVP.

With out further adieu:

American League Division and Wild Card Winners

AL East – Yankees

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wildcard – Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays

RATIONALE: The Yankees, while pitching may be a bit of a question mark, have a potent line-up that will likely win 97 games, despite an average rotation with one superstar (CC). Detroit is the sexy pick in the Central, and with good reason. Who else is going to compete with that monster? The West is going to be a shootout this year. I like Anaheim purely for the stronger pitching staff, considering CJ is going to be third or fourth in the rotation after being at the top in Texas. Sox and Jays – I’m calling it. Tampa is going to be in the mix, but the lackluster offense is going to be troublesome down the road. If the Jays can get their rotation woes straightened out, they’ll be strong contenders come September.

National League Division and Wild Card Winners

NL East – Washington Nationals

NL Central – Cincinnati Reds

NL West – San Francisco Giants

NL Wildcards – Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies (odd team out: D’Backs, Dodgers, Braves – all nipping at the heels)

OVER-RATED: MIAMI MARLINS (new stadium, new unis, new players – same whiny Hanley Ramirez. Expect him to bring down the team.)

RATIONALE: My ‘are you f’in’ crazy’ pick. Washington has a strong rotation, a quality bullpen and a strong line-up with young talent ready to breakout (Michael Morse, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and eventually, Bryce Harper). I like Philly, too, but age, injuries and what I predict to be a loss of one of the big arms in the rotation will make them fall short of the division title. Loving the Reds this year. Young, strong pitching, with a solid line-up and an MVP candidate.  San Fran – fixed the top of the order with Pagan and Cabrera and have by FAR the best rotation in the game. Expect a breakout year from Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey to be in fine form after missing last season. Milwaukee – hell, it could be St. Louis again, who knows. Brew Crew have a good rotation (Greinke, Marcum and Gallardo), closer (Axford) and a good line-up, despite losing Prince to the Tigers. Arizona will come up short when the duo of Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy come back to earth.

World Series

Angels over Giants in six games

RATIONALE: The Angels are the real deal. Incredible pitching staff, out of this world line-up. It’ll be a pitching showcase in this Fall Classic, sure to be an interesting one.

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVPJose Bautista – Jays make the playoffs for the first time in 19 years on another massive year from Joey Bats. Don’t count out King Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder or Robinson Cano, though.

AL Cy YoungCC Sabathia – Guy just dominates year in and year out. Expect it to be a tight race with the likes of Verlander, Price and Angels’ Jared Weaver.

AL Rookie of the YearYoenis Cespedes – His team won’t make the playoffs, but he’ll have a big year regardless. Matt Moore will be nipping at his heels – and maybe even Yu Darvish.

NL MVPJoey Votto – The kid is going to put together one heck of a year to take his second MVP title. Don’t count out Rockies’ SS Troy Tulowitzki, Dodgers’ Matt Kemp or Washington’s Michael Morse (YEP – I said it!)

NL Cy YoungMatt Cain – Huge contract, huge year. If it’s not Cain it’s Lincecum. Expect dominate years from Halladay, Lee, Clayton Kershaw and Yovani Gallardo.

NL Rookie of the Year Brandon Belt – Originally, I had Alonso here like McGilligan, but I changed my pick once I found out Belt was making the team (see article on Belt from yesterday).

A healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau? Strader says watch out wild card favourites Texas, Tampa Bay and Boston - there is a surprise coming.

American League Division and Wildcard Winners

AL East – New York Yankees

AL West – LA Angels

AL Central – Detroit Tigers

AL Wildcards – Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins.

RATIONALE – Ok, ok, the Minnesota Twins. I know. But here it is. The pitching staff is not impressive, but it’s solid. The lineup is not impressive, but it’s solid. And there is a team every year that surprises all the prognosticators, so I’m sorry, I’m not going, Angels, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays like every other lazy ass out there.

It’s 162 games. Injuries happen. The Twins, I believe, will DH Morneau more than he even needs. I think Ryan Doumit, with some consistency and health, actually has a chance to outperform his career numbers, and there is an ability to do a bunch of different things with the offence (Span, Willingham, Mauer, Parmelee). Who better with a bunch of different parts than Gardenhire?

If I have to explain the other four, you’re probably picking the Royals and their young and up and coming lineup right now….

I know the Rangers aren’t there, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a year of injury concerns for a number of their players. And really? Three WS appearances in a row? Come on. They’re not the Bills…

National League Division and Wildcard Winners

NL East – Braves

NL Central – Cincinnati

NL West – LA Dodgers

NL Wildcards – Arizona, Colorado

RATIONALE: The Braves are too complete, and nobody else in the NL East quite matches up to that description. I believe, much like my colleague Livingstone, that Cincinnatti got a raw deal of circumstances last season, they have too much talent on both sides of the ball not to be a turnaround story. And I don’t think one playoff run makes David Freese a comparable replacement to ALBERT PUJOLS!! How did any Pujols bashing even start? I would have paid him double.

The Dodgers, yeah, that’s right, the Dodgers. They did it on the back of Ethier and Kemp before (sprinkled with a little Manny of course), they’re going to surprise and do it again. The question marks are over, those guys are going to be hungry to play ball.

Oh, and Kershaw’s kind of awesome.

World Series

Yankees over Braves in four.

RATIONALE: Sorry, but this feels like one of those years where we all love the season, and the only people who like the playoffs are the pinstripers…

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVP – Jose Bautista – In spring training we saw American media attention for Canada’s only team. During award season, we’re going to see what that media attention can do for your squad.

AL Rookie of the Year – Yu Darvish – Pitchers who win 18-20 games win awards. Plain and simple. (Honourable mention: Lorenzo Cain)

AL Cy Young – Ricky Romero – Maybe I watch the team to much, but look at the progression, the peripheral numbers, and the fact that all this left hander has to do is find his pitches to dominate lefties, and he’s actually one of the most dominant starters in the game.

NL MVP – Troy Tulowitzki. I don’t think we’ve ever seen the ceiling. A little health, a little less Ubaldo, and maybe we get to see it?

NY Rookie of the Year – Drew Pomeranz. He’s earned a spot and will start. I love Alonso’s bat, but pitchers get credit for pitching in Colorado more than hitters seem to get credit for hitting in San Diego. So I’m going Pomeranz.

NL Cy Young – Kershaw. I see a Greg Maddux style award dominance here for a while.

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No Way, Jose? Yes way, Delmon Young.

Delmon Young: poised to be the next Jose Bautista?

STRADER: It’s what every great, and not so great, sportswriter wants to do.

The killer prediction. The real one. No, for all those who have tried it, the New York Yankees are going to win the World Series is not a prediction. Shut up.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are going to win the division is a prediction. (Props to Sports Illustrated’s Dr. Z on the greatest prediction of all time – Giants over Patriots on Feb. 3, 2008 ­– now that’s a prediction). They’re the one nobody sees coming, the one that makes you look like a sports genius. A swami, shall we say?

Prior to the 2009 season, I named my fantasy baseball team, Jose Bautista?Really?? I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I predicted 54, 124, .260, .378, .617. Nobody did. But it was a prediction. I saw something in his bat during his September run and thought to myself, this guy’s gonna make this team. He’s going to win a starting job and play regularly, Cito obviously loved him. Maybe he’ll hit 25 and 85 and surprise a lot of people.

I figured him to be another Wendel Clark. Toronto great, you know? Not quite great, but best in town, so ring of honour and ticker tape parade.

Don’t worry Toronto fans, I’m a Vancouver boy. You’d think Trevor Linden scored 50 a year…

Arguable best player in the game though? Nobody saw that out of Jose. And now, as he backed up one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history (Yep, I’m a steroid era hater – all hail Ken Griffey Jr. The real Barry Bonds. Yeah, we all know it Barry) with 43, 103, .302, .447 and .608 our resident King of Toronto has become the subject of one of the best of the present day baseball off-season predictions.

Who is the next Jose Bautista?

This is my take: (And yes, you will hear that story about my 2009 fantasy team a lot)

His name is Delmon Young, and I believe he is the next Jose Bautista. Granted, Young isn’t going from 15 HR and 54 RBI to 54 HR and 124 RBIs the way Jose did, because Delmon’s already had a great year. 21 HR in the majors is great, I don’t care what anyone says, and 121 RBIs is ridiculous, but there’s another step for Delmon.

He came with a pile of hype when Tampa Bay drafted him in 2003, and probably has even had a day when he went too high in some people’s fantasy drafts. But has he ever been anyone’s first or second rounder consistently? Has he ever been one of those guys everyone wants to draft? Or was he J.D. Drew? (Oh, ok, someone else got him, I’ll just take Markakis…)

That’s what he was supposed to be, and much like we all just watched with Alex Gordon, I think health, maturity and a consistent spot in a talented lineup is going to boost Delmon to the kind of player who can be counted on for 35-40 HR’s and 100+ RBIs every year. He has to work on that strikeout rate, that can come with age, and experience.

Jose did it at 29. Gordon was 27 last year. Delmon will be 27 this year.

Everybody knows who Delmon Young is. But after 2012, he’s going to be one of those guys everyone wants to draft.

LIVINGSTONE will offer his selection for breakout player of the year in Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce. Stay Tuned.

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Going the depth route on draft day

One Write Fielder took a strategic position depth approach to his draft. Will it pay off?

STRADER: Napoli in the fifth round?

“First one off the board for Strader…”

Actually, no boys, that one was right on the board, and you can suck on my Napoli/Avila duo all the way until September.

You see, more than any other sport, fantasy baseball is about organizational depth. (I will be using this very thing to shred my colleague’s diatribe about how the Sox/Yanks/Rays are still ahead in the east soon) Think about it this way.

If I have a starting catcher who can put 30 out of the park, and 100 on the board, how much is that worth?

What if I have two? Starter and backup?

How deep is this position around the major leagues? How many catchers can do that?

So, I say to my buddies who are struggling with Yadier and Miguel as their starters, and on the constant hunt for a backup that will give them a competitive 10 and 50, good fuckin’ luck. I’m takin’ Napoli early and making sure my catchers outscore the rest in the league by 30 per cent.

I rank my fantasy baseball team picks by position as much as overall ability. Second base is another great place for a falloff. You have your Dan Uggla’s, Dustin Pedroia’s, and the king, Robinson Cano.  Phillips tantalizes people every year, Ackley has people wondering, Asdrubal, are you for real? (‘Cause I can still play you at second?)

And Utley, will you be healthy?

There are so many question marks in this position, there are so many inconsistencies, that finding consistency can put you leaps and bounds ahead of the next guy. If you sacrifice a star outfielder who’s a consistent 25 and 90 to get a second basemen who’s a consistent 20 and 80, who’s going to be harder to duplicate?

Do you take Adam Jones early, to keep that strength in your outfield, or do you realize that outfielders are a dime a dozen, and guaranteeing yourself a strong second base platoon will be way harder to do off the waiver wire.

Besides, somebody always comes out of nowhere (Luis Gonzalez, ahem….) in the outfield. Watch the waiver wire there, not at second.

Catcher, second, short stop, relievers and third base. They’re the most difficult positions to ensure strength from top to bottom.

Use your first or second overall pick to secure your ace, and throw in another quality starter between rounds 3 and 5, and then focus on your depth chart.

Trust me.

You’ll take a bunch of crap from your pool buddies for drafting Napoli in the fifth round, and then rub it in their faces in September.

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